In addition to two ebook versions each of the Mélanie Watt titles reviewed below, there’s also a game featuring this anxiety-prone critter called Scaredy Squirrel SOS. Players progress level-by-level as they help the rodent collect the items he needs for his emergency kit. There are underground dens inhabited by strange creatures to tunnel through, shark-infested waters to ford, huge boulders to climb, and points to earn while music plays in the background. I confess; it’s a bit addicting.
To purchase the books, viewers will need to download the iBooks app onto their devices. The game can be purchased directly through the App store. Additional marketplace information follows the reviews.
Title: Scaredy Squirrel Makes a Friend
Author: Mélanie Watt
Published by: Kids Can Press
Developed by: OpenRoad Integrated Media, LLC
Read-Aloud Versions: iOS, requires 4.2 or later; purchase through iBooks, 1.3 or later; $7.99
Interactive Versions: iOS, requires 5.0 or later; purchase through iBooks, 1.5 or later; $9.99
PreS-Gr 2-Scaredy Squirrel isn’t the first book character to worry obsessively, but he may be the only one who lives in a tree and carries a parachute, bug spray, a mask, and rubber gloves in an emergency kit. With a strict routine, compulsive habits, and the need to be ever vigilant for killer bees, sharks, green Martians, and the germs that lurk EVERYWHERE, this anxious creature has no time (or desire) to leave his leafy home, or make a friend. But when a killer bee attacks, Scaredy discovers he can fly, and it’s a moment so liberating that he is able to (ever so) slightly alter his daily schedule, and imagine including another animal (of the goldfish sort) in his life.
Both Scaredy Squirrel (2006), and Scaredy Squirrel Makes a Friend (2007) are available through iBooks in read-aloud and interactive versions. Read-aloud versions feature a clear, professional narration (almost deadpan in its delivery), sound effects, and automatic panning and page turns. Words are highlighted as they are read, and tapping on one may bring up a definition. Pull-down tabs allow listeners to jump to another page, or search for a text passage. Zoom-in capabilities are present.
All of these options are also available in the interactive versions, which include additional audio. There are also opportunities for children to participate in Scaredy’s adventures by knocking acorns out of trees, adding check marks to his many lists (one of those habits), and triggering other effects and movements, all of which are smoothly integrated into the storyline. Getting the feel for the touch or swipe that will turn a page or draw down a pull-tab takes some practice and the effort is likely to frustrate children when pages begin to skip or zoom in and out. But this is one animal with enough fans willing to learn to work the iBook quirks.—Daryl Grabarek, School Library Journal